My story

Here in America, we live in the land of opportunities. We are presented with s never-ending barrage of opportunities to invest our time, our money, and ourselves in things. We are presented with opportunities to serve on boards and committees, opportunities to volunteer at schools, churches, and nonprofits, and, if your house is like ours, you are receiving buckets of envelopes in the mail each day to invest your money in year end giving to a countless number of worthy causes (tax-deductible of course). 

So. Many. Things. So many good things happening in the world. But if the answer to all of these invitations is yes, one finds oneself spread waaaay too thin, and finds themselves saying No to the people that matter. Your children. Your spouse. Your tribe. 

So. How do you invest? How does one decide where your legacy will be? 

It’s a question I have pondered. Often after I have fallen into the trap of too many yeses and too little margin. My knee jerk reaction is almost always YES. I see a need, a worthy cause, and I want to be all in. But ‘all in’ implies all of you. And I simply just can’t give that much at this stage of life. So. How to decide. 

For me, this decision is fraught. How can I invest in Christendom, how do I live missionally in the world outside the church? How do I be the best mother I can be? How do I get filled up and refreshed, mentally, emotionally, spiritually? 

I don’t have all the answers, but I have a start. I have started to view my decisions from a future standpoint, looking back. A year from now, a decade from now, at the end of my life, what do I want my story to be? 

Where do I want to be proud to say I invested? Whose life do I want to have impacted? What causes do I want to champion? What stories will I be proud to tell my grandchildren. 

Viewed from this lens, the answers surprise me. It involves less of the urgent, much more of the just. It involves building solid, strong, lifelong friendships. Of going deep, not wide. 

It involves saying no, a lot. It involves realizing what is ephemeral and what lasts. It means ruthlessly eliminating ‘shoulds’ from my life.  It involves saying no to too many weekends away from my family, even if the invitation seems appealing. 

It also involves saying a lot of yes. To spontaneity. Joy. People, not programs. It involves calling my state legislators a lot more. It involves creating traditions and figuring out how to include my children in what matters to me.  Popping my bubble and stretching myself outside my comfort zone. 

In the end, I want my story to be colorful. With strongly patterned themes throughout. People. Time. Love. Justice. Jesus. Using my gifts and talents to make this world better, not just busier. More beautiful, not just more crowded with stuff. 

What’s your story? 

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Santa Claus: when my kids ask…

**SPOILER ALERT** if you 1) can read and 2) are on facebook or WordPress and 3) are reading this instead of watching cat videos, I assume you are mature enough to handle the real deal… 

I love Christmas. The whole shebang. For as long as I can remember I’ve started my Christmas shopping in June. Started sneaking listens to Christmas music in September. Stockpiled glittery red dresses and Christmas shirts for my kids from thrift stores year round. 

I love the traditions the cookies and the stories that surround Christmastime. 

But last week, when my 5 year old asked me if Santa was real… I couldn’t not tell him the truth. 

Because Jesus. 

There are so many stories that circulate this time of year. Elf on the shelf. Rudolph. Frosty the Snowman. Santa. Buddy the Elf. That eggnog tastes good. The stories make this time of year sparkle. They fill us with whimsy and wonder and excitement for what is to come. But they don’t hold a candle to the other Story we tell this time of year.

Sometimes I wonder what happens in our children’s minds when the truth gets mixed in with all that fiction. 

So. 

When my sweet little boy asked me if Santa was real, I just couldn’t say yes. I just couldn’t perpetuate the confusion, the dilution, that is Christmas these days. 

So here is what I said: 

“Well Colton, answer me this… Are superheroes real? (this is a conversation we’ve already had multiple times) 

“We know it’s really fun to pretend that there are superheroes.   But the truth is, there’s no one magic (wo)man that can beat up all the bad guys. Instead, there are lots and lots of good people who go to work every day as policemen and firefighters that help protect us all and keep us safe. And there are even more people, just regular people like you and me, who do kind things all the time. They help people that need help and work to make our world a happier place. And all of us working together can do more than one superhero could ever do.

“and Santa Claus is the person we say brings gifts and joy on Christmas Eve. But really, what brings us happiness is each other. The things we do together. The family we get to see, the special things we do as friends and family. And of course the gifts we choose for each other. But  the thing that truly brings us joy is the reason we celebrate Christmas – that baby Jesus came to the world and through Him God sent his son to save us from our sins. That’s what we are really celebrating at Christmas time. 

“I’m telling you this because I want you to know that I will never lie to you about things that are really important. When I tell you something is true, I want you to believe me. We can tell lots of stories and have lots of fun, but at the end of the day I want to always be someone you know will tell you the truth.”

And after all of that, my sweet son looked me in the eye and said in all seriousness: “Mommy you are wrong. I KNOW Santa is real. I sat on his lap.”

Oh well. 

You win some you lose some. 

And to all a good night. 

Advent-ures Part II


I have to brag for a moment – I have the best neighbors in the world. I live in this magical cul-de-sac full of smiling people who do kind things for one another. One of those kind things included coming home to two plastic wrapped chocolate Advent calendars one afternoon early in December. 

I’m not sure if you have children in this stage, or remember what it was like to be in this stage, but things don’t get much better than chocolate filled Advent calendars. Each day you get to poke your fingernail into a fresh perforated square, open a never before opened door, and pull out one single perfect piece of molded chocolate candy. What will be today? A trumpet? A teddy bear? An Angel? 

This delicious anticipation also happens to be equally matched with a dizzying sense of loss after the box is opened and the chocolate is consumed. Immediately, you want to open the next day’s door. To eat the next day’s candy. To hoard all of tomorrow’s blessings today.

Luckily for me, my advanced age and lifetime of wisdom keeps me from coveting my future self. I am perfectly content to take each day at a time and not spend my life wishing for the future… 

*oh wait*

No, that’s actually what I spend the majority of my time doing. Wishing for the next piece of chocolate in my metaphorical Advent calendar. Wishing for non-metaphorical chocolate at all times as well.

I think that it is very significant that two of the most celebrated times in the liturgical year, Advent and Lent, are both centered around waiting. We spend our entire lives waiting. Waiting for the next life stage. Waiting to achieve a goal. Waiting for this to trial to pass, or for that far away blessing to come. Thinking that life will truly be happening whenever {fill in the blank} finally happens and you are no longer {fill in the blank}. 

But isn’t it true that we are perpetually waiting? And isn’t it true that its in the waiting that we grow? It is my experience that when things are going smoothly, I seldom feel driven to fully rely on God. When I can see my way out of the situation, I don’t often pause to lift it up in prayer. When I feel in control of my life, I tend to feel like I deserve credit. 

It is in the waiting that I realize this story is not about me. 

It is in the waiting that I remember to turn, again and again, to my Provider. 

It is in the waiting that I am shown my insufficiencies. The areas I need to grow. The ways I deal with others that are hurtful, sinful, unloving.

The waiting forces me to grow. It forces me to turn to God. It forces me to become a better disciple, mother, wife, friend.

Waiting is not a trial, but a gift. And an extremely useful gift – dare I say even more useful than the Instant Pot you’ve been eyeing on Amazon? In this season of Advent, we are waiting for the celebration. For the Messiah that was promised – long waited for. The covenant that was fulfilled in ways unforeseen. 

Even when this gift was given, it was in the form of a baby. The fulfillment of the covenant was happening, and yet still creation waited. For the baby to grow. To learn to eat, to walk, to crawl. To speak, to pray, to change the world. Even when the promise was being incarnated, there was still waiting. And even now, as people of the New Covenant, we wait.

What a gift we have been given. To wait expectantly, fully confident in a God that will not fail us. To realize that we don’t know how the story will play out, but we do know the One who is writing that story. 

As you wait for Christmas day this year, allow the waiting to be formative. Ask God to show you how this period of waiting will bear fruit. And don’t forget to be grateful for the gift that waiting is to you, to me, to all of us.

Isaiah 40:30-31 Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. 

Advent-ures 

Confession: I had a dream last night where I all of a sudden realized that it was December 27. And I had missed it. I had missed Christmas. In my rush of decorating and wrapping and parties and church services and endless rounds of Christmas traditions with the kids, I had missed Christmas itself. There I was, two days later. And I didn’t remember a single blessed thing. All that work, but no memories. All that effort for my loved ones, but no opportunity to share the love.

Luckily, it was just a dream. And luckily too, I must add, I don’t actually feel that way about Christmas this year. But as the years go by and my kids get older, I see the temptation to get swept up in the tidal wave of Christmas. To drown in sprinkles and tinsel and harried trips to the mall. How, in the midst of all of these wonderful things, can we carve out time and space to appreciate the most essential part?

The word Advent comes from the Latin word adventus meaning “coming” or “visit.” It is designed to be a time of waiting. A time when we reflect back on the long centuries the Israelites waited in longing for their Savior to come. It is a time when we reflect upon our need for forgiveness, for redemption, for the new start that is given to us in Christ. It’s also a time of invitation, for us to lean in to the longing for the Second Coming. For the time when “everything sad is going to come untrue and it will somehow be greater for having once been broken and lost.” (quoting Timothy Keller, who is quoting J.R.R. Tolkien)

Advent is a time designed to remind us of our emptiness, of our longing. And just like the humans we are, it has instead been turned into a time of fullness. Of gluttony. A period of days and nights crammed to the brim with parties, and cookies, and chocolate advent calendars, and Christmas cards and wrapping gifts. Which, is absolutely lovely. It is full of feels, full of friends, full of opportunities to say the thing that needs to be said. Which is a gift that isn’t given very often in our lives. 

But, at the same time, it can also be a distraction. Pulling our thoughts and hearts away from the sense of longing, for the craving for a Savior. For the simple beauty of the Christmas story and the great Redemption story that follows. 

So what does one do? It’s not like we can postpone all of our Christmas festivities until after Christmas Day. It seems cruel to deprive are children of the joyful merry -go-round that is Christmas in America. 

I’m not saying we sit out Christmas, pull ourselves up in our houses and sackcloth and ashes and ponder our need for salvation.

But perhaps, we should pair it back a bit.

Perhaps we can be intentional about what we say yes and no to. Especially at this time of year. Take time to sit in front of the Christmas tree. Just sit. Take it in – the light and the smell, and the ornaments that are precious keepsakes. There’s only one time a year that for no apparent reason we chop down a perfectly healthy tree and haul it inside our house. You paid good money for that tree. Enjoy it. And while you do, stop and reflect on how Christmas intersects with your life this year. Where you need space and time and margin. Where you need redemption and unfailing love, a fresh start. What blessings you are grateful for and what things you need to mourn.

This year I chose a non–advent book for my advent devotional. Present over Perfect by Shauna Neiquist. The title suggests the theme, and for me it has been a gift. A daily reminder to soak it in. To be present and cease trying to be perfect. To stop the madness and savor the people in my life.

If you feel like the Christmas season is a truck that has run you over and is now dragging you behind it, just stop. There are still two weeks left. What do you need to do, or not do, to allow yourself to encounter the living God this Christmas season?

O Holy night, the stars are brightly shining, it is the night of our dear Savior’s birth. Long lay the world in sin and error pining, ’til He appeared and the soul felt it’s worth. A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices. For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn…